The past few months have been a busy time for the National LGBT Federation (NXF) as we welcomed a number of new additions to our Board. Gavin Hennessy took over as Chair from Caroline Keane and brings to the role a wealth of experience as an equality and diversity specialist. The other recently appointed board members also bring a range of valued skill-sets and a new energy and dynamism to our work.
2022 promises to be a crucial year for LGBTQ+ equality. The enactment of robust Hate Crime legislation has been a major priority for us since our Burning Issues research revealed it to be the leading LGBTQ+ legislative priority for our communities.
After many years of calling for such legislation, we therefore welcome the Government’s recently unveiled draft Bill.
With the scourge of homophobic and transphobic Hate Crime on the rise, it is crucial that a fully LGBTQ+ inclusive law, underpinned by the kind of training and resources to make it truly effective, is on the statute books by the end of this year.
By utilising both educational and criminal justice measures, we must as a society collectively send a signal that targeting someone because of their inherent identity will simply not be tolerated in a modern and diverse Republic.
Another policy priority for us in the year ahead is the delivery of a full and comprehensive ban on the abusive and discredited practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy’. To that end, we are delighted to be part of the new Steering Group working towards advancing a ban throughout the island of Ireland.
There can be no justification, either under the guise of ‘religious prayer/practice’ or erroneous notions of ‘consent’, for what is rightly labelled a form of torture by the United Nations and condemned by all reputable organisations worldwide.
Thankfully, there is now growing international momentum to tackle this abuse, with Canada and France being the most recent countries to pass a complete ban on attempts to ‘suppress’ or ‘cure’ a person’s sexuality and/or gender identity/expression.
That is the model we need to adopt in Ireland too.
Meanwhile, a recently published report by the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism specifically highlighted its prevalence on the island of Ireland, in addition to the role of the US religious right who continue to be very active in this space globally.
Another recent report that we strongly welcomed was the hard-hitting findings of the Council of Europe, warning against a growing tide of hate and hostility against LGBTQ+ people across Europe, with Hungary, Poland, Russia, Turkey, and the UK all being cited as ‘countries of concern’. The latter was included due to the endemic transphobia that has taken hold in recent years and which Council delegates overwhelmingly voted to condemn despite attempts by the British delegates to water-down the Report.
We can take pride that the social and political trajectory regarding LGBTQ+ issues here in Ireland in recent times has been a more positive one. However, there is no room for complacency and we can never take our gains for granted. The proliferation of online hate and disinformation is a particular concern – indeed, the LGBTQ+ community is often a prime target for those who harbour a wider agenda of dismantling liberal democratic norms and values.
Finally, as the worst of the pandemic hopefully recedes, we look forward in great anticipation to being able to gather once again on the streets of towns and cities across Ireland to celebrate Pride.
Last year, for the first time, this writer, on behalf of the NXF, interviewed the Taoiseach and the other main party leaders as part of a Pride series of political interviews.
We look forward to re-visiting the series this year for a progress update.